Remembering The Clever Leader Of The Beatles

Saturday, October 9, 2004 - by Wes Schultz

Today, Saturday, Oct. 9, would have been John Ono Lennon's 64th
birthday celebration.

Born John Winston Lennon, he changed his middle name after meeting his second wife Yoko Ono.

The Beatles always denied having a 'leader' but John was surely the
start of it all. Having his own rock band in which Paul McCartney joined
and soon after George Harrison and later Ringo Starr. During their early
years playing local clubs and entering band contests it was John who
would ask "Where are we going men?," in which the rest would answer "To the top." This was the reinforcement they used for themselves after losing a contest or not getting a gig or contract.

After The Beatles became famous in Europe and the U.S. and then world
wide, it was John that would make 'spastic' faces while cameras were in their faces. It was John's way of handling the tremendous pressures of being so famous and keeping The Beatles down to earth.

It was John's accident and idea to use distortion on purpose in a
recording. John had set down his guitar near an amplifier which fed back a sound that impressed all of The Beatles. After learning to create the distortion on purpose it was edited and placed at the beginning of the song "I Feel Fine." Later he learned to create the distortion on stage during live performances. Recently I was talking to a friend about this and he asked if I thought John was the first person ever to get feed back. I replied that probably every person who ever owned an electric guitar and amp had experienced feedback but John and The Beatles were the first to use it creatively. That was a trait of John and The Beatles, they were clever and creative.

It was John that would take phrases that Ringo would come up with
(Ringoisms) and use them for titles of songs. Tomorrow Never Knows; A Hard Day's Night; Eight Days A Week.

During The Beatles Liverpool days they would play at art shows. Paul
came up with a French sounding instrumental bit in hope of making girls think they were French and get dates. Never worked he said. Years later after becoming world famous John suggested putting words to the music so Paul did. The result was the song "Michelle."

"Sgt. Pepper" changed the music world as people knew it at that time.
Using electronic sounds and demanding every sound on the album be
tweaked in some way, it was the Beatles excuse to end their touring. At that time it was not possible to recreate the songs on stage. Although the Sgt. Pepper idea was Paul's, John was once asked how they came up with songs that were so fitting to Sgt. Pepper. He replied that the only songs that pertained to the theme was Sgt. Pepper which was the opening song, and the shorter reprise toward the end of the album. And that all the other songs could have been used on any of their albums. The reporter asked then why did they work so well? John replied "Because we told you they would."

John wrote two books of one page stories, cartoons and poems. "John
Lennon In His Own Write" and "A Spaniard In The Works." His wife Yoko also wrote a book titled "grapefruit." Inside the front cover she writes "Burn this book after you've read it." Inside the back cover John writes "This is the greatest book I've ever burned."

After having a child with Yoko, John became a 'house husband' to stay at home with his family and at one point went five years without touching a guitar or writing music. Shortly before his death he released the album "Double Fantasy."

These are a few things I remember from the days when The Beatles were recording and from The Beatles Anthology Book and VHS (now DVD) series. If you don't own any Beatle or John Lennon recordings I don't think you would be disappointed with any album. In John's words from the song "Being for the Benefit Of Mr. Kite", "Having been some days in preparation a splendid time is guaranteed for all."

Wes Schultz

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